Teaching time management skills to children

Getting out the door on time is a difficult task when you just have yourself to worry about in the mornings. Getting out the door on time with children in tow is even more difficult. The website WebMD has a terrific video about fostering time management skills in children and helping them get where they need to be, when they need to be there.

A round-up of tips from the video:

  • No television an hour before bedtime.
  • Prepare for the morning rush in the hour before sleep. Backpacks should be packed, clothes need to be chosen for the next day, etc.
  • Wake up your child in the morning with a whisper and a kiss, not screams and demands.
  • Give children at least an hour to bathe, get dressed, eat breakfast, and brush their teeth before needing to be out the door.
  • Get rid of distractions, like toys.
  • Give “warning” messages at 10, 5, and 1 minutes before time to leave.

Do you have additional tips to add to this list? Please share them in the comments.

46 Comments for “Teaching time management skills to children”

  1. posted by Kristin on

    I just want to add: I own that alarm clock. And I love it. And it also has the most annoying trumpet tone to wake you up in the morning. 🙂

  2. posted by Paula on

    I like the “warning messages”, just like a stage manager does for actors in the runup to curtain time. I wish someone would do that for me 🙂

  3. posted by Emma on

    I don’t have any tips but these are great!

    I just wish we got a chance to wake our 3 year old, he’s always waking us up – and not with a whisper and a kiss I might add!

  4. posted by Battra92 on

    A whisper and a kiss? Jeebers! What next, a drawn bath with lavender petals and scented candles?

  5. posted by Leslie on

    My mother sometimes woke us up with music. It may not be for everyone, but one of my favorite memories is waking up to strains of “The Sound of Music” floating down the stairs.

  6. posted by Linzerella on

    Growing up, my parents never allowed us to watch TV in the morning. They’d read somewhere that kids learn better if they don’t watch TV before school. It was probably crap, but it’s a habit that’s stuck with me – I don’t watch TV in the mornings, aside from checking the weather.

    I’ll continue this when I have children – it’s just another distractor in a busy morning.

  7. posted by Amy on

    Good tips. I accidentally hit on one phrase that worked better than any of it: “Did you guys know your cousin Logan gets himself ready for school after his mom leaves for work? And he’s a whole year younger!” Never underestimate the competitiveness of boys.

  8. posted by Theresa on

    I’m a single-mom with two kids and need to get all three of us out in the morning. And I’m not a morning person. I used to nag and yell all morning, but no more.

    I created a checklist for my kids. A picture and the name on each step so that the three year old could read it too. Then I laminated it. They love going through the list and doing their steps and checking them off. It stops me from nagging them all morning.

    We also put a time-based schedule on the wall – one they helped create. If they are ahead of schedule, they get to make their own breakfast (usually cereal or pop tarts with fruit). Otherwise, I get to make it and that’s oatmeal or something not nearly as charming as pop tarts. It helps keep them moving faster.

  9. posted by mycrzylife on

    great tips!

    i found that having routines for my daughter really helped her know what she needed to do and when. she had a morning, afternoon (afterschool) and evening routine. Each one outlined what she needed to accomplish.

    Also I found that giving her the responsibility to doing things herself was a great motivator. By the end of her 1st grade year, she was getting herself up with her own alarm clock, getting dressed,and doing her devotions all on her own. THere was no yelling or rushing around. The alarm was set for about 1 hour before she had to walk out the door and we usually had time left over.

    I also have found that giving her breaks while she is doing tasks works well also. Really, who likes to clean their room for an hour straight? Not me, and kids don’t either. So I give her small breaks after about 20 minutes of working. Also works great for doing homework if she has a lot.

  10. posted by Tiara on

    Love the tips! I don’t wake my girls up with a whisper and a kiss. That would just put them back to sleep. Instead, I give them “5 more minutes.” Then after a few minutes, I wake them up with talking about what they are going to do today and tickles. It gets them excited about their day and they wake up with smiles.

  11. posted by mhb on

    I still remember how my mom managed to make my alarm clock an important part of my passage into being school age – she got it for me the week before I started kindergarten and I recall being very excited to have my very own alarm clock. Being given the responsibility to get myself up and ready for school made me feel like a “big kid”, and helped set the tone of personal responsibility my folks worked hard to cultivate in all three of us.

    The only time we got a whisper and a kiss was for a snow day… if it was winter time and Mom came up the stairs early in the morning, we all knew it was good news!

  12. posted by Jay on

    As to getting out the door on time in the morning, consider having all or some of the kids bathe the night before.

  13. posted by Charley Forness on

    I have triplets, but they aren’t home from the hospital yet. I often sit and wonder how I would get them all ready with one bathroom in my home, for school. I like the idea of using that last hour before bed time getting ready for the following day. Thanks for the tips.

  14. posted by Damsel on

    I’m with Theresa and Tiara. My 5 y.o. has evening and morning chore charts. I wake him up by telling him that I’m going to go get his baby sister up and dressed, and then we’ll both be back to get him. When we come back into his room, he loves to cuddle her a bit while we talk in quiet whispers about what he’s doing that day at school.

    For his chore charts, he gets to put stickers on them. If he fills the whole week, he gets to go to Blockbuster and pick a movie on Saturday.

  15. posted by Molly on

    My dad used to wake me up by opening the door and turning the light on.

    I learned that it’s much better to wake up to an alarm before he came in. 🙂

  16. posted by Gryphon on

    @Charley Forness- It wasn’t quite that bad growing up in my house, but we did have four people to get out the door each morning. The brilliant solution my hot water deprived child self came up with is to start taking showers at night. Would be amazed how much easier it was to get the family out the door when even one person doesn’t need the bathroom for a shower in the morning. I would say start taking evening showers yourself or train one or two of the new munchkins to like evening cleaning rituals.

    As for the rest, it disturbs me how parents scream at their children to get them awake. I live in a duplex at the moment and it never ceases to amaze the volume and language my neighbor will use to get his kids moving. Now there is a healthy way to start the day. My dad used to wake me up with a whisper and a gentle shake, and if I was being stubborn about it I got an ice cub down the back of my pajamas and tickles.

    They also didn’t instantly expect me to be up and ready. I got a little bit of a wake up period in bed. Still follow that procedure to this day, with my morning schedule giving me two alarm clock snooze sessions before I get up and go. A lot less stressful than suddenly having to be on the march first thing in the morning and I still get out the door in less than half an hour (my average is 23 minutes after timing myself for a week).

    I am also a big fan of radio alarm clocks. Less stressful to me than some tone that is designed to raise the dead. If I am lucky and the timing works out I also get to hear the weather or some of the news.

    The really important thing is to customize wake up routines to individuals, not simply expect them to all have the same routine automatically. Leave that sort of thing for the folks that go to boot camp and set yourself and your kids a schedule that works for you as individuals and as a family unit.

  17. posted by infmom on

    When I was a kid, my mom would absolutely obsess about getting us out the door in the morning in time to catch our ride to school. We had a thermostat in the dining room with a little clock on it, and she would pound on that with a finger to impress upon us what time it was getting to be. She eventually broke the little clock doing that. So much for having the furnace go on and off on schedule! She was also a very early riser, who couldn’t understand anyone who wanted to sleep in much past 6:30am.

    The irony was, of course, that my mother was never on time for anything in her life. Ever. My brothers and I joked for years that she’d show up 20 minutes late to her own funeral. If she were driving us anywhere we’d be lucky to leave the house at right about the time we were supposed to be at our destination, and it was always our fault.

    As a result, I am very good at time management and I know how long things will take. I did my best to transmit this to my kids. Unfortunately, my husband is clueless when it comes to time (you’d think I would have learned!) So my daughter’s as time-conscious as I am and my son’s more like his father.

    When they were in grade school, as soon as they were old enough to make a sandwich without spreading peanut butter on their clothes, they were responsible for making their own school lunches. Thus, if they wanted a lunch, they had to be up and at ’em soon enough to take care of that. It worked very well once the consequences of piddling around in the morning sunk in. One day with no lunch was all it took.

  18. posted by EngineerMom on

    The biggest tips I have from when I was a child and now as a parent are to do as much as humanly possible the night before – pack lunches, lay out clothes (I keep a hanger on the back of our closet door for this specific purpose for me), pack work-out stuff if you go to the gym during the day, locate purse and keys and place near door, and plan what to have for breakfast (if this isn’t already a routine).

    I work out in the morning, so I prefer to shower at the gym. My husband stays home with our 1-year-old son (who’s usually up by 6:30), so he showers at night after the munchkin’s asleep.

  19. posted by Nana on

    As a single parent with two young children, I sometimes found it a challenge to get us all dressed, fed and out the door in a timely manner. Dressing was first priority, and we sometimes had to eat our toast or cereal in the car. I felt guilty, until another carpool mom told me her son wanted to know if they could have a picnic breakfast in their car!

  20. posted by Chris on

    My kids wake up about 6am. We don’t need to leave the house until 8.30am, and I’d rather not wake up until 7.30am.

    I wish they’d wake *me* with a whisper and a kiss rather than jumping all over me.

  21. posted by sue on

    The blessing in having a child with Aspegers is the routines are your friend! (You’d better get it right the first time, tho–LOL!)

    The 15/10/5/1 minute warnings saved our sanity, as did a kitchen timer. TV in the morning was only on for the weather report and any school delays/cancellations. DS packed his backpack the night before, and DH installed a row of hooks by the exit door for the backpack and his jackets. Shoes parked on the small shelf unit under the hooks. Showers were the night before.

    DS is now a junior in high school, and there has never been a day where the schoolbus had to wait on him.

  22. posted by Erin on

    I had the same experience as a previous poster – it was a really big deal (and super special) when I got to choose my very own (pink!) radio/alarm clock. I took great pride in my own clock! Also, the video specifically referenced transitioning from summer vacation to school – my father would always make us “practice” getting up and getting ready for the two weeks before school started to get readjusted to the earlier wake-up time to “re-set our clocks.” We would always grumble a little bit, but my parents did it with us and made it fun – we always had very fun activities planned for those last weeks of summer.

  23. posted by Rachel on

    i TOTALLY used to have that alarm! LOL

    i have no tips though :X

  24. posted by coco on

    these are great tips, and i do them all except the no TV one. my kids would whine too much about that.

    i have always hated rushing around in the morning, so i wanted to make a nice morning experience for my kids.

    one is very easy to wake up, the other almost impossible. so, we squirt his foot with a water bottle on those difficult days!

    oh, the most important part for us is to have a super strict bedtime on school days.

  25. posted by Elaine on

    My mother’s sure-fire alarm clock for my sister and me was a large, enthusiastic dog. 30+ pounds of happy puppy in the middle of your bed is a guaranteed waker-upper.

  26. posted by RoaringSilence on

    I apply these every single day. To my husband! xD
    It’s working great.

  27. posted by Cynthea on

    Great tips. From my days of getting kids up and out the door, I would only add NO TV in the morning. Too much noise, chaos and distraction. To this day, I can’t stand to have a TV on in the morning. The outside world can wait just a little longer.

  28. posted by Kami on

    So helpful! Thank you!

  29. posted by martha in mobile on

    To wake up my daughter I go in and sing a little song that I have been singing to her since waking up on a schedule became important. Her dad waits in our bed for her to run in and give him a morning snuggle. If neither of these is adequate incentive, I release the wriggly terrier who snorts, snuffs and licks her out of bed.

    My own childhood was quite different, so every morning I am grateful to do it this way!

  30. posted by Kimberly on

    I think once a child is in grade school they should have an alarm clock. Setting timers and racing the clock is a good motivator. Definitely get everything you can ready to go the night before.

    BTW I find good number of ADHD type kids thrive with timers. They find it easier to concentrate for set length of time then take a break. Also kids with ADHD and LD’s like dyslexia and dysgraphia need to be taught organization and a structure to back them up while learning it. Some kids just don’t know how to clean up their room. It seems like a tangle of yarn -they can’t figure out how to find the end piece.

  31. posted by Kel on

    Growing up, Mom would come in and give me a mini-back scratch/rub and in winter fix my pj legs – so that’d they cover my lower leg/ankles again since the house was kept fairly cool. As I got older, Dad used to tease me about using a bucket of ice if I didn’t get out of bed for Mom… it worked 🙂 haha. I now use a radio alarm clock, then 15 mins. later use a buzzer one. And I’ve built in an extra 10 mins. to my morning routine in case of some last minute problem. My morning isn’t rushed and even if I spill coffee on myself there’s still time to fix it and be on time to work.

  32. posted by Dawn on

    I set the breakfast dishes/placemats/napkins out the night before and we decide what we will be having for breakfast – that way the most important meal of the day doesn’t get skipped or scarfed down in the car. No TV watching during breakfast either.

  33. posted by sarah on

    As someone whose mother employed the warning system throughout grade school and high school, I’ve got one bit of advice: don’t do it.
    It leads to resentment and a perceived lack of respect for the child’s autonomy. How can you foster responsibility if you’re constantly giving 5 and 10 minute warnings? It’s sink or swim in the “real world.” As soon as a child can fully understand and be impacted by the consequences of his/her actions, then he/she doesn’t need to be coddled.

  34. posted by Leah Goodman on

    When it was really cold in the winter, my mom would put our clothes in the dryer and tell us that if we get up *right now,* our clothes will be warm.

    If it was Sunday, my dad would sometimes wake us with hot cocoa

  35. posted by Maryann on

    When my friend’s kids were slow-poking, she drove the one that was ready to school, and then came back and drive the other one on her way to work, who ended up being REALLY late because of it. Now both are always ready way before time. LOL.

  36. posted by PS~Erin on

    Awesome tips… The getting up in plenty of time in the morning is huge for us. Starting school last year was a tough one for us. My daughter had to adjust from waking up at 9 to getting up in time to make it to kinder on time. I started out letting her sleep as long as possible and then we’d rush around to get there on time. Then I started waking her up 20 minutes earlier and our mornings were so much better.

  37. posted by Natalie from Western Australia on

    On school mornings our boys put on their undies, school pants, socks and shoes only. Pyjama tops stay on until after breakfast and teeth brushing, then are changed for school tops. That way it doesnt matter if food or toothpaste gets dribbled on the pyjama tops.

    Our other brainwave was to give the sleepiest child (also the oldest aged 9) the alarm clock. it goes off and he knows its his responsibility to get mum and dad out of bed. Hehe – no annoying alarms in our room!

    Whoever it was that posted about ADHD type kids – feel free to give me any tips you have about helping them get organised.

  38. posted by Deborah Marchant on

    Getting kids up? Try a simulated dawn ‘alarm’ clock

    Another thing we can do to help kids get up and go more naturally and with less turmoil is to change the time when school begins. EARLIER for Elementary School (this age manages to get up early to watch cartoons on TV) and LATER for Jr High and High Schoolers.

    Sweet Dreams

  39. posted by Erin on

    These tips could easily be ‘tweaked’ for adults. All the principles apply to adults as well.

  40. posted by Jenn on

    With three small children, I’ve found that routine is of the utmost importance. We do the same things, in the same order, every single morning that we have to leave the house. Like many moms, I try to get as much done the night before as possible, sometimes even loading up the car if the morning will be especially early or hectic. I get up at least a half hour before the kids, and get their breakfast ready (and drink my coffee in the quiet!) before they get up. No breakfast until they’re dressed, and shoes on, completely ready to go before they can play with toys. And no TV in the morning, ever!

  41. posted by ellie on

    my children are now 36,33 and 29 but when they were little,getting them dressed could slow everyone down,,even if their clothes were laid out the night before. my rule became, if you dressed yourself,then you could wear whatever you wanted to school as long as it was clean and weather-appropriate. this did result in one kindergarten-aged daughter wearing a strip of emerald green sequins around her waist like a belt ,no matter what else she had on,everyday. (she was cured of sequins by the experience and never wore another to my knowledge). if i had to go help one get dressed, then i got to pick out what they wore–so a win-win situation.

  42. posted by @Stephen | Productivity in Context on

    Great tips! I would add some more time management techniques as the children get older and start having homework. Schools should be teaching organizational and note-taking skills much earlier than they do.

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